Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Intensive Rotational Grazing - Fencing & Water

(Credits: Many, many thanks go to my sister, L. C., who has many talents - but I presume her specialty is making a computer ‘sing’ or any other thing you would like it to do! She created the beautiful ‘sketch’ you see here. Enjoy looking at its detail!)

In our last Post (5/10/09), we were discussing initial fencing of a piece of property and then ‘cross-fencing’ it. The practice of which we were referring is called “Intensive Grazing”, or “Intensive Rotational Grazing”. The benefits to this method of grazing is just amazing to the animal and the land.
In our sketch, we have taken a certain amount of acreage and sub-divided it into paddocks. The amount of land shown is purely for demonstration -- yours may be less or more. The important thought is to have approximately 12 different paddocks to rotate the animals on. Depending on the amount of animals you have and the size of the paddock, would determine the amount of days the animals spend there. PLEASE NOTE, none of the paddocks have more than 2 days designated. This keeps the grass from being completely eaten down, trampled on, or too heavy a manure load. When the animals are moved, this particular paddock will then have about 2 weeks of rest. Even with little to no rain, a field, left alone, will begin to rejuvinate itself.
The exterior fencing needs to be durable -- welded or woven wire about 4 feet tall is the most ideal. But costs begins to add up when fencing for animals, so 3’ welded wire would also work. Just run an electric wire line above that to hopefully prevent an outside animal from jumping the fence. An electric strand run about 4-6” above the ground line -- AND on the OUTSIDE of the fence, is also a good idea to prevent outside animals from tunneling under the fence.
The inside fencing (cross-fencing) does not have to be as particular. Several rows of baling twine, tied with surveyor’s tape or plastic bags that the animals can see, could easily be used, or a couple of rows of electric wire. Unless the sheep were spooked, they would respect the lines you have made (except for the ram! especially in mating season). The worst would be that the ewes would simply find themselves in the next paddock.
In our sketch, our water source is found in the center of all of the paddocks -- saves on supplying water to each paddock individually. An underground water line is shown running from the barn (assuming water is there) to the center of the field. A hand-pump at the trough usually is all that is needed as the supply of water needed is not like filling for cattle.
Building a roof over the watering trough area would accomplish several additional benefits. If a 300 gal. plastic water tank were buried beneath the trough, and down spouting provided from the roof into the tank, a free supply of rain water would be available. Additionally, this would keep this area somewhat dry instead of a mud hole in the rain. It would also serve as an area where minerals could be provided that would not become soaked. (Minerals will be discussed in a future post.) Placing wood chips or straw (not hay) around this area is also recommended.
While 12 separate paddocks seem overwhelming, especially if there is little to no extra help, start with 3-4 paddocks and the next year divide those, and so on. Four paddocks to rotate the animals on is far better than just letting them freely graze and waste a great deal of what the Good Lord has put out there for them to eat.
As promised in our last post, rotating the sheep onto new pasture greatly reduces, or can completely eliminate worms or parasites. And to destroy their life-cycle, a 2 week period is needed before the animal returns. Worms or parasites need moisture like any other living creature. They will climb up a leaf blade to get the morning dew -- which is just the time the sheep are coming out to graze …. but on a new pasture, the sheep won’t find any!!
Next post - the benefits of vinegar in water!!
“… water ye the sheep, and go and feed them.” Gen. 29:7b

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